Mosquitoes are bloodsucking insects that have a distinctive buzz, they are capable of transmitting certain diseases to humans and animals. They can breed in any fresh or salt water, which remains stagnant for longer than 5 days, this includes containers, drains, ponds, pools, dams and tide-affected land
Colour: Varies; Pale brown with whitish stripes across abdomen
Legs: 6, long and slender
Shape: Adult mosquitoes are usually slender, long-legged, narrow-winged
Size: Adults 3 to 6mm
Antennae: Small and segmented-hairy in Males less so in females
Mosquitoes are best known for their irritating ‘bites’ which is due to the piercing and sucking feeding action of the adult females which inject saliva into the skin that acts as an aesthetic and anticoagulant. ‘Biting’ can be so irritating and annoying it can lead to reduced yield in animals; humans find the noise of flying mosquitoes annoying and some individuals react severely to bites which become swollen, itchy lumps.
Mosquito eggs are usually laid on the surface of water and hatch into larva, which are aquatic and usually referred to as wrigglers. Larvae feed on organic matter, which they filter from their environment. The larvae undergo four moults before pupating. The adult emerges from the pupal case onto the surface of undisturbed water. The life cycle from egg to adult may be as short as a week, or much longer depending upon temperature, food supply, species etc.
Males have a short life and feed on honeydew, nectar and other plant secretions. Females may live for several weeks and may pierce the skin of a variety of animals in order to suck blood.
Mosquitoes are very skilled at finding and exploiting a range of water bodies, which include but are not confined to natural and artificial water bodies, of permanent or temporary nature and can be fresh, brackish or saline (depending on the species of mosquito). They may include lakes, streams, pools, swamps, dams, irrigation ditches and channels, tree holes, non-draining roof guttering, septic tanks, drainage pits, rock pools and water captured in almost any vessel including tins, cans, old rubber tyres, drip trays of pot planes etc. and all may serve as larval habitats.
Adults may stay close to breeding sites or may disperse over several kilometres depending upon the species and other factors. One of the driving factors is the female’s need for a blood meal, to obtain protein before egg production.
Mosquitoes pose a significant threat to the health and comfort of humans and animals, with the injection of saliva by adult females being the source of disease vectors that causes millions of human deaths each year. A female mosquito ingests the transmitted diseases during a previous blood meal, from an infected person or animal. Once inside the female’s body the disease causing organisms multiply before being passed on to another individual at the next blood meal.
Of the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, malaria is the greatest killer of humans with the majority of deaths occurring in countries outside Australia (e.g. Papua New Guinea, throughout South East Asia, India, a few countries in the Middle East and Africa).
Malaria is not common in Australia; however the Australian population is often threatened with lesser epidemics such as hemorrhagic Dengue Fever, ‘ordinary’ Dengue Fever, Ross River Fever, and Murray Valley Encephalitis.
The greatest impact individuals can have on mosquito prevention is the disruption of the insect’s life cycle by preventing incidental water accumulation sites that accumulate in rubbish (old tins cans, tyres and any other receptacle that can hold water; blocked roof guttering is another potential water source that can be addressed by homeowners). Where ever possible water accumulated should be drained or avoided. Where large-scale water bodies are involved governments should have a thorough understanding of the water and mosquito ecology to minimise the opportunity for mosquitoes to breed. Biological control may also be involved through the use of insect eating fish such as Gambusia.
Fly screens used on homes doors, windows, vents and other openings in buildingscan provide excellent protection against adult mosquitoes.
Tips for managing Mosquitoes around your home
- Keep your rain gutters clear to reduce their breeding grounds.
- Filling in low areas in the yard and holes in trees that catch water.
- Disposing of plastic containers, tin cans, ceramic pots, buckets or similar water-holding containers or covering them.
- Covering trash containers.
- Changing the water in birdbaths, wading pools and pet dishes several times a week.
- Turning over wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
- Keeping swimming pools, hot tubs and outdoor saunas clean and chlorinated or draining and covering them.
You may also be interested in Biting Midge